I remember first hearing about HIV in one my MPH classes at UCLA in the fall of 1982. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was a new disease outbreak reported by CDC the summer before, after one of UCLA’s medical school faculty reported the syndrome in a group of five gay men in Los Angeles. It sounded like just another esoteric disease that might show up on one of our quizzes, so I spelled it out in my notebook, never once imagining that this disease might eventually become one of the world’s greatest public health and moral challenges of our time. I didn’t pay much more attention to AIDS during my public health studies, though soon after it became a focus of national attention, and even hysteria.
The focus of the first half of my career was primarily on family planning and reproductive health. The projects I worked on at that time in Latin America did not deal much with HIV, though there was recognition that family planning clinics should discuss the “dual protection” (from pregnancy and HIV) that condoms provide and refer women (and the occasional male client) at risk for HIV testing and counseling. It wasn’t until 2003 and my involvement in a youth-focused, HIV/reproductive health project that I began working equally on HIV and pregnancy prevention in recognition of the fact that young people are at risk of both HIV and unintended pregnancies.
I came to JSI in 2008 because of JSI’s global work in HIV and the new AIDSTAR-One Project. Though I now work full-time on HIV through that project, I continue to advocate for programs that integrate HIV, family planning/reproductive health, and maternal-child health programs and appreciate JSI’s experience and global leadership in integrated programs.